Animal therapy nonprofit to hold Longmont community meeting before starting sessions in March
February 19, 2020
By: John Marinelli
Originally found in Times-Call
Animals can often make people’s days a little — or a lot — brighter.
Rise Phoenix Rise, a nonprofit that recently moved to Longmont from Richmond, Va., applies this concept to peer-to-peer group therapy, having participants work through difficult issues with the help of furry friends. And Wednesday, it’s looking to provide information to the Longmont community and gather input at an outreach meeting before its inaugural group session in March.
Executive Director Traci Jones said she got the idea for the nonprofit more than five years ago after seeing “the magical benefits that animals have on people’s mental health.”
“It’s like natural medication, just being around animals,” said Jones, who came to Colorado seeking a drier climate for her health.
Jones already had been working with peer-to-peer therapy before Rise Phoenix Rise was formed officially in 2015. Such therapy involves those living with mental health issues gathering and working through their problems together. Jones wanted to combine that with animal therapy.
“I wanted to couple those two modalities to help people rise from the ashes of their struggles into wellness,” she said. “Rising from the ashes” is also how the organization got its name, she added, after the mythical Greek phoenix, a symbol of rebirth.
These “magical benefits” aren’t just magic, though. According to Dr. Sarah Davidon, research director at Mental Health Colorado, doctors have been prescribing emotional support animals due to their ability to reduce stress.
“Health care professionals are seeing the medical benefits of easing what are sometimes really debilitating symptoms that can arise from undue or prolonged stress,” Davidon said.
While she said they aren’t a silver bullet and can’t eliminate people’s problems on their own, when combined with a “robust way of addressing the issues of concern, it can definitely help.”
“There is research showing … the therapeutic stress reduction effect of animals,” she said.
Jones noted that research has backed up the calming affect that she saw animals could have, citing reductions in cortisol — the stress hormone — as an observable benefit of petting or being around pets.
Starting in March, Jones said, Rise Phoenix Rise will put on a once-a-month group session featuring a therapy dog provided by Therapy Dogs Boulder County, which has worked with dozens of senior living facilities, schools and other organizations around the area. The once-a-month session will take place at Longmont United Hospital, which donated time in a meeting room to the nonprofit.
“Rise Phoenix Rise is a new program we agreed to provide therapy dogs for on the third Wednesday of each month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Daryl Holle, executive director of Therapy Dogs of Boulder County. “It is our plan to help bring calm and comfort to people attending these meetings.”
Jones said that, indeed, dogs are there to support and calm those in group therapy who are talking through challenging subjects.
“If someone’s having a difficult time discussing something, the therapy dog would be there as a support for the person to help them get through the processing of whatever they’re talking about,” she said.
Jones said that the nonprofit will start with these therapy dog groups but will work toward providing groups involving cats, horses and creative outlets like visual art and music.
The ultimate goal for Rise Phoenix Rise, said Annie Garrison, who currently co-directs the nonprofit along with Jones, is to provide a resource that “directly reaches out and pours support into the community,” helping those “who may be suffering in silence.”
“Making a difference one neighbor at a time, hand to hand and heart to heart starting with Longmont and then across America and around the world,” she said.
Rise Phoenix Rise’s Wednesday community outreach meeting will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Longmont United Hospital’s Gauguin Room, 1950 Mountain View Ave.
If you go…
What: Rise Phoenix Rise community outreach meeting
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday
Where: The Gauguin Room, Longmont United Hospital, 1950 Mountain View Ave.